Investigators with the Louisiana legislative auditor’s office are busy conducting interviews, a sign the investigative audit is progressing.
Begun earlier this year, the investigation into LCG has continued quietly as the 2023 election ramped up. Officials with the auditor’s special investigative unit were scheduled to begin conducting interviews two weeks ago. It’s unclear who has met with investigators or what specific issues they are probing.
In January investigators traveled to Lafayette City-Parish Hall to notify Guillory they were conducting an investigative audit, a story widely reported in local media. The Current was able to confirm later that day that the probe, in part, centered on at least one of LCG’s drainage projects, the secretive removal of spoil banks in St. Martin Parish.
Investigative audits don’t run on a schedule, Roger Harris, who heads the LLA’s investigative unit, told KLFY in January.
“Like anything else, if you go in and don’t find anything it will go pretty quickly,” Harris said. “If you find something it takes a little longer.
“By the nature of an investigative audit, it is not regular or routine,” Harris went on to tell the station. “We generally don’t [audit] local governments unless we have a reason to.”
An Oct. 16 email about the LCG investigation from Legislative Auditor Michael Waguespack to state Sen. Jay Luneau of Alexandria, obtained by The Current, confirms that investigators would likely be “back in the field” doing interviews in late October. “It has been a slow, methodical process as we have reviewed over a 1,000 pages of documentation and records and conducted several interviews,” Waguespack wrote to Luneau, who chairs the legislative audit advisory council, a joint committee of the Louisiana Legislature that advises and consults with Waguespack’s office.
City Councilwoman Nanette Cook says she confirmed with Harris that investigators did arrive late last month, and this week she was told interviews are still being conducted. Cook says she understood Harris to mean LCG employees would be interviewed, but The Current could not independently verify whether any employees have been questioned.
“The administration is unaware of any interviews of LCG employees by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor,” LCG Chief Administrative Officer Cydra Wingerter said in an email response.
Harris declined to comment on the status of the investigation when reached by The Current.
The investigative audit is not related to the annual audited financial report conducted by a contract accounting firm for LCG, though Waguespack did indicate in his email to Luneau that some of those findings are now part of his office’s ongoing investigation.
That auditor, Kolder, Slaven & Company, released what was LCG’s worst annual audit in more than a decade, finding two dozen widespread deficiencies that led to excessive payments, bad bidding practices and poor internal control over city-parish spending, potentially violating multiple state laws.
The LLA’s investigative audit unit looks into fraudulent or abusive activity and works to deter the misappropriation of public assets, according to its website. In testimony during the October defamation suit he brought against his election opponent, Monique Blanco Boulet, Mayor-President Josh Guillory sought to downplay the nature of that state investigation, characterizing it as a routine function of state oversight.
“If the LAA [sic] does refer to it as an investigation, I can’t control that,” Guillory, a lawyer, testified. “But I do know they audit us every year,” he added of the legislative auditor. The LLA does not audit LCG every year; the independent firm hired by the City-Parish Council, Kolder, Slaven & Company, has conducted LCG’s regular audits on behalf of the legislative auditor for the past 15 years. Since at least 1998 (as far back as its electronic records go), the LLA has not conducted an investigation of Lafayette government, spokeswoman Karen Rowley confirmed.
Former state Rep. Don Bacqué held a press conference last week, accusing Guillory of lying under oath in part because of his testimony on the LLA’s investigation. Guillory’s suit, intended to stop Boulet from calling him corrupt in campaign materials, was unsuccessful.
“If Josh Guillory is held accountable, he will be convicted of perjury, a felony. He will be a criminal.”Former state Rep. Don Bacqué
In that October hearing, Guillory gave blanket denials when attorney Gary McGoffin, Boulet’s counsel for the suit, asked if he was aware of any investigations, including by the FBI, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the legislative auditor’s office.
Several inquiries and investigations have been publicized, openly discussed, and filed in court proceedings over the last two years.
Bacqué sent his complaint to the Lafayette Police Department at the direction of 15th Judicial District Attorney Don Landry, who has endorsed Guillory’s reelection and refused to accept the perjury complaint. “Our office does not investigate,” Landry told The Acadiana Advocate. “We prosecute.”
To convict someone of perjury, Landry told the paper prosecutors must prove that at the time the person made the statement “he knew it was wrong, it wasn’t the truth.”
Guillory appoints the chief of the Lafayette Police Department.
At the press conference, Bacqué ticked off the various media reports and council discussions about the investigation in making his case that Guillory lied under oath.
The former lawmaker specifically pointed to a May 23 joint council meeting to discuss LCG’s troubling audit, where the legislative auditor’s ongoing probe was specifically referenced by Kolder, who explained that he had to forward his own audit to the LLA because of that investigation. “Josh Guillory was there. I know that, because I was there,” Bacqué said, noting that he limited the allegations in his complaint to the instance he personally witnessed, the council discussion of the investigation. It is his hope that investigators will also look into the knowledge Guillory had at the time about other investigations into him and his administration.
A lifelong resident of Lafayette, Bacqué supported challenger Jan Swift in the primary and has since thrown his support to Boulet.
Bacqué told The Current this week that he also forwarded a complaint about Guillory’s alleged untruthful testimony to the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which investigates allegations of ethical misconduct against lawyers and administers discipline. “Guillory should not be an attorney if he perjured himself and [broke] the law,” the former lawmaker said.
“If Josh Guillory is held accountable,” Bacqué told local media, “he will be convicted of perjury, a felony. He will be a criminal.”